The End of the Monarchy of Sex

Theory, Culture and Society 25 (5):104-122 (2008)

The hegemonic form of contemporary queer theory is dependent on a model of desire as autonomous and deregulated, derived from post-'68 French theory and particularly the work of Michel Foucault. Such a model is at risk of finding itself in congruence with a deregulated post-Fordist capitalism that recuperates supposedly dissident sexual identities. This article returns to the work of Foucault to identify a largely unacknowledged tendency in his work that contests the valorization of sexuality and calls for an `end of the monarchy of sex'. This possibility is linked to Foucault's controversial exploration of the concept of `spiritual politics' through his engagement with the Iranian revolution. Rather than regarding this as a regression into a reactionary religiosity, I argue that it forms an inquiry into new political possibilities of revolt. These possibilities contest what Alain Badiou has identified as the nihilism of contemporary capitalism, in which desire and sexuality are deployed to constrain the political imagination to a limited bodily `materialism'. Drawing on the work of the later Foucault, it becomes possible to develop this new politics around asceticism, which is not so much withdrawal from the world but the refusal of the mediations of identity through sexuality and the body
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DOI 10.1177/0263276408095218
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The Subject and Power.Michel Foucault - 1982 - Critical Inquiry 8 (4):777-795.
Beyond Formalisation an Interview.Alain Badiou - 2003 - Angelaki 8 (2):111 – 136.
Homos.Kevin Kopelson & Leo Bersani - 1996 - Substance 25 (1):120.

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